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Christ is born! Glorify Him!

I love these days of the Christmas Feast. Each day has significant meaning and today is no different. We remember St. Stephen, the First Martyr of the Christian Faith. St. Stephen was the first to be made a deacon by the Apostles in Acts 6. And then he was killed for his effective witness of Jesus as Messiah to the people in Jerusalem. And the Church attaches our Gospel passage to this commemoration to our commemoration of this great witness to the Faith.

And what a passage to keep us focused on the very purpose of God becoming flesh for our salvation.  The passage insists we embrace the wisdom of the dual truths that we are “tenants” in God’s creation and that we must never reject His Son! If I am ever going to take Christmas seriously as a follower of Jesus, I have to pay attention to this story Jesus tells!

Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 21:33-42:

The Lord said this parable, “There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in our eyes?’”

Jesus tells stories in the Gospels to teach us deep and profound truths. And this story is no exception. He relates to His hearers in a way that leaves them with more work to do after He speaks. So many layers of meaning! So much wisdom! And so much challenge. If we truly have eyes to see; it really is marvelous!

First, God is the Lord. You see, our lives are chaotic until we discover Whose we are; not just who we are. That’s why there is such a distinction between people who live their lives as if there is no God and those who live their lives as if there IS a God. If all of this is random and meaningless, then why bother with self-sacrifice and caring? But if there is a “householder,” well, that makes a difference. A big difference. Especially if that Householder wishes you to know Him! And He does!

Next, We are Tenants. I’ve rented houses before as both landlord and as a renter, and I can tell you it matters a great deal how you care for Someone else’s property. In fact, how you care for Someone else’s property says a great deal about you, yourself. If there is a God, and if that God wishes to be known, then even my very body is “rented property!” I am a tenant in the Lord’s Vineyard and how I care for this rented place reveals who I really am. This is why judgment is NEVER an attack but a revelation!

Next, We are Servants. There are those whom the Landlord has chosen to go into His Vineyard and “reap” what is truly His! How we treat those servants; how we embrace those servants, also reveals who we are. When we mistreat God’s servants, we reveal our disbelief in the Landlord. We assume this life is ours and ours alone. We prove to be functional atheists.

Finally, We have received the Son. God loves His vineyard, His creation. And He will not hesitate giving everything, even His very Son, to make His vineyard what He intends it to be!

Today, as we continue to celebrate the Nativity, no wonder the Church has us say “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” God’s judgments are His Light revealing who we really are. That’s why we must be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. O Stephen, a crown of royalty was laid on your head. For contests, you courageously endured for Christ, our God, as first among martyred saints. You stood in accusation of the raging Judeans, and you saw your Savior at the right hand of the Father. Entreat Christ our God to save our souls.


  • Stephen Price
    Posted December 27, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    The feast of Stephen! Yesterday I researched an old carol that mentioned the feast of Saint Stephen we used to sing every Christmas. And today is that day and is my namesake day. The Divine Liturgy was wonderful – my first one for this particular day! So I thought that I’d share the lyrics of that carol with you.
    Good King Wenceslas looked out
    On the Feast of Stephen
    When the snow lay ’round about
    Deep and crisp and even
    Brightly shone the moon that night
    Though the frost was cruel
    When a poor man came in sight
    Gath’ring winter fuel

    “Hither, page, and stand by me
    If thou know’st it, telling
    Yonder peasant, who is he?
    Where and what his dwelling?”
    “Sire, he lives a good league, hence
    Underneath the mountain
    Right against the forest fence
    By Saint Agnes’ fountain”

    “Bring me flesh and bring me wine
    Bring me pine logs hither
    Thou and I will see him dine
    When we bear him thither”
    Page and monarch forth they went
    Forth they went together
    Through the rude wind’s wild lament
    And the bitter weather

    “Sire, the night is darker now
    And the wind blows stronger
    Fails my heart, I know not how
    I can go no longer”
    “Mark my footsteps, my good page
    Tread thou in them boldly
    Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
    Freeze thy blood less coldly”

    In his master’s steps he trod
    Where the snow lay dinted
    Heat was in the very sod
    Which the Saint had printed
    Therefore, Christian men, be sure
    Wealth or rank possessing
    Ye who now will bless the poor
    Shall yourselves find blessing

  • Reese Martin
    Posted December 27, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    “[God’s] judgment is NEVER an attack but a revelation!
    “God’s judgments are His Light revealing who we really are.”

    As a former protestant the “judgment of God” is something I so misunderstood. Your daily devotionals help me continually develop a more Orthodox mindset, and the modest length and to-the-point content has been helpful in adding them to my day. God bless Faith Encouraged and the work you do. Thank you!

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